chicago, politics

talking to strangers

Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the day before the inauguration of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth President of the United States of America.

Last night, at a Bucktown bar and a Bucktown taqueria that reminded me of the Mission, a friend and I got into a 1 am discussion with a pair of opinionated Chicago strangers. We disagreed with each other on every point in the playbook* – Steelers vs. Cardinals, voter registration, economic policy, the bailout, Obama’s merits. It was a reminder to me, from within my pro-Barack haze of euphoria, that there are many, many people in this country for whom the jury is still out.

What further argument can you pursue when one person thinks everything works through the “trickle-down” economic principle and the other thinks nothing does? Still, I like it when discussions happen between strangers, especially with opposing viewpoints. One of them at least conceded that Obama had a chance to be better than Bush, and that the Steelers were probably the favorites (but not, in both cases, by how much!)

One of the main reasons I like Obama’s chances as a President so much is his ability to engage in debate and discussion across the aisle, with respect. We need that so much, especially in times like these. Although our Republican taqueria stranger wasn’t willing to give us even that, I’ll give you a six-point spread – hell, six and a half – that he is going to keep on trying to work with the Republicans every single day of his term.

Here’s to an era of American politics where we all talk to a lot more strangers.

* except Iraq. This man was one of the most Republican Republicans I’ve ever spoken to, and he agreed that we had no good reason to be in that war.